Over the course of the last two years, I have made numerous new starts. When I moved from Seattle almost exactly two years ago, I went in search of having my faith restored in humanity and a bit more sanity in my own mind. That search took me many places. I traveled the most of the US and popped into a couple of foreign countries. I traveled by plane, train, boat, car, bus, bike and my own legs. I slept on couches, beds, sidewalks, beaches and in cars. I met people from every single walk of life. My quest for hope restored was rewarded quite early on. It was restored primarily in small towns. These towns are without a doubt the backbone of our wonderful country.
I arrived in a picturesque small harbor town in Maine just a few weeks after I left Seattle. That marvelous little corner of the world is where the majority of my hope was restored (see 2012 blog entries). It didn't take me long to find friends who opened their arms and homes to me without any reservations. Well, if they had reservations, they never showed them. I spent six months with the most genuine, kind and generous folks anyone could hope to encounter. Most nights were spent as a group laughing, drinking and listening to our favorite musicians on vinyl. Life was slow paced, conversations were never rushed and as days passed, I aspired to return the endless kindness I received to each new person I met. However, as the days did pass, I realized Maine wasn't the end for me (though I would love to go back and live there someday). There was more waiting for me and I knew it.
Life is more than curious and from Maine I went on a series of adventures. On one of these adventures I was riding my bike from Washington, down the West Coast with no actual destination, aside from somewhere warm. One day, as I rode down highway 101 through the vast redwoods forest, with the waves of the salty ocean crashing on the beaches next to me, the thought of Austin, Texas and farming came to mind. As soon as I began considering, I made the decision that that was where I wanted to go and somehow needed to be. And soon enough, after a few more adventures, I found myself on the most spectacular farm just outside of Austin.
The Simmons family (who owned and operated the farm) were honestly some of the purest souls I have met to date. Their kindness and generosity is unmatched. I was fortunate to see a family exist in true love, even in the midst of very different views on life. The one thing they all did agree on was that love is reserved for all, joy is essential, food should be both delicious and plentiful and life is valuable. As I write this, I am remised because I feel my writing skills lack, as I don’t think I can convey in words the love I saw (and experienced) and the wisdom that was shared with me by these magnanimous folks.
The wisdom shared was not just wisdom about how to effectively grow healthy, organic foods (though there was plenty of that!), but I gleaned much wisdom about life and love. It wasn't something they ever preached, as they are far too humble to do such things, rather it was in day to day interactions. Interactions they had with me, interactions they had with each other and interactions they had with those they sold their delicious food to. If someone failed around them, they didn't rub it in their face; they didn't gossip behind their back; they didn't hold it against them in the future. They took it in stride, acknowledged the failure and taught with grace how to move forward.
I received this grace when I spent a part of a morning harvesting radishes that were overripe. Of course this is a simple example, but the response was powerful. I had wasted valuable time on harvest day (our busiest day where time efficiency is key). I could have been mocked for it (as I've been mocked for far less mistakes) or made an example of, but instead it was just brushed over, required no penance and I was showed, plainly, what my mistake was. Again, a simple example, but even in that, grace abounded. It was the daily reactions to things like that that made an overarching impact on me (and I've no doubt, others). When you live a life where you let the little things go and teach with grace how to move forward, it translates into all of the bigger things in life. For me, when I am gifted with this kindness, I recognize that that is how I should be living. It's a valuable lesson that I can be too quick to forget.
In our culture we've gained more anonymity than we know what to do with. It is all too easy to treat people as less than they are. We are lacking a social accountability. I believe this is because of technology and massive populations. The mean, snide or judgmental comment you leave is easy to do when you don’t have to say it aloud to the person and then watch how it affects them the rest of the day or week or month, or in some cases, the rest of their life. Each person is living a life you know nothing about, and you know nothing about it because you haven’t made the effort to know what’s going on in a persons life. Of course I don’t think one needs to know the inter-workings of every individual they cross paths with. My point is, if you don’t know the inter-workings, you don’t have right to negative commentary. And if you did know the details, you would (one would hope) prefer not to say negative things because you’re more empathetic than that.
The virtue is old: treat others as you would want to be treated. Yet this is a virtue that seems to be getting lost more and more in our world as each day passes. Not all is lost though, because I've seen the kindness and compassion in action, it still exists in pockets and I believe those pockets of people are what will be our proverbial saving grace. So long as we're willing to emulate these extraordinary people who teach freely without knowing it, we can gain back our integrity and pass it on to the following generations.
Hmm… I began this entry to tell the tale of how I’m living in Georgia with the man I plan to spend the rest of my life with, but it seems I took a different direction once I hit on my galvanizing farming friends in Texas. It would seem my fingers wander with my mind as I write. Alas, I shall save the rest of that story for my next entry.